BEREA (92.3 The Fan) – Browns general manager Tom Heckert and coach Pat Shurmur felt good entering the season about the team’s depth.
That depth suddenly is being tested with linebacker Chris Gocong sustaining a torn Achilles which will require surgery and end his season.
Gocong is the second defensive starter to go down before the season started – except he’s now lost for the year.
Starting defensive tackle Phil Taylor is already out after sustaining a torn pectoral muscle in May. He’s not expected back until mid-season.
“I don’t want an injury at any position,” Shurmur said. “We just keep moving ahead and we’ll find out again what’s wrong with Chris. We’ll find out how long he’ll be out and then we’ll keep moving forward. Nothing can stop the train, we’ve got to keep going.”
Kaluka Maiava and rookie James-Michael Johnson were competing to replace Scott Fujita at strongside linebacker for the first 3 weeks of the season. Now it appears as if both will start regardless with Gocong going down.
“Injuries do happen,” Maiava said. “Unfortunately, losing a guy like that, and Fujita his situation, we’re definitely going to be missing our leaders. And we’ve just got to be ready. That’s what you play the game for. Someone goes down, you’ve got to fill in, fill the spot in, and be positive and produce.”
Fujita is suspended for the first 3 games by the NFL for his alleged involvement in the New Orleans Saints’ “bounty” scandal in the 2009 season.
Maiava was selected in the fourth round in 2009 and spent his rookie year on special teams. During the second game of the 2010 season he suffered a torn ACL before starting the final 6 games last season when Fujita broke his hand.
“Every year, you get better and better,” Maiava said. “You get more confident, just more comfortable playing with the guys — especially if you’re around the same group.
“I’m fortunate to be in the NFL, so I’ll take whatever job they give me. I’ll play wherever they need me to be and just do my job as best I can.”
The Browns selected Johnson in the fourth round in April and he’s been impressive throughout mini camps, OTA’s and the early portion of training camp.
Starting Sept. 9 against Philadelphia feels like a forgone conclusion for many but it’s not a focus of his.
“I’m not really worried about that,” Johnson said. “I’m worried about just doing whatever they need me to do. And right now they need me to back up whoever, so I’m just going to get in there and try to do my best at that. Hopefully we can get Chris [Gocong] back as soon as possible.”
Sixth round pick Emmanuel Acho, who has spent most of his time working on special teams, Craig Robertson, who finished last year on the Browns’ practice squad and L.J. Fort, an undrafted rookie from Iowa State just got a bump up the depth chart.
Big Pop: Saturday witnessed the hardest hit of camp to date when corner Buster Skrine blew up offensive lineman Oniel Cousins on a sweep.
The hit was so loud it prompted hoots, hollers, cheers and jeers from players watching the play from behind the line.
Skrine is 5-9, 185 pounds while Cousins is listed at 6-4 and 315 pounds.
David beat Goliath again.
Back Again: Incoming owner Jimmy Haslam III was back on the field taking in practice for a second straight day.
Haslam walked across the field with Shurmur as practice was winding down and the two talked for a good 15 minutes.
“I will keep our conversations private, but he’s interested in the operation and he’s watching it with fresh eyes so he has questions about how we do things,” Shurmur said. “I think it’s something that he’s out there trying to learn and get up to speed with what we’re doing, how we do things, why we do certain drills so that he can become educated on our process, of course.
“I feel like he’s really excited to own this football team. I’ve enjoyed our conversations to this point.”
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell told reporters in Canton that he expects the sale of the Browns to be finalized before the owners meetings in Chicago October 16-17.
“We have 32 teams and we want them all to be viable, but the importance of this team in this community is clear — the tradition, the history of this team,” Goodell said. “And the competition in this league is pretty tough, so it’s important to make sure all teams have that ability to be competitive.
“And unfortunately, the Browns haven’t been as competitive as the fans want or the organization wants, and I know that’s what Jimmy Haslam wants to change.”
Changing It Up: The Saturday practice prior to the preseason opener has usually been held at Cleveland Browns Stadium – but not this year.
The Browns will host “Family night” instead of “Family day” Wednesday night at 7 p.m.
“It was just some scheduling. We wanted to make sure the field was in the right condition and then we wanted to look at it on a week night,” Shurmur said. “There’s no real firm rhyme or reason to it. We wanted it to be an outstanding experience for our fans. We feel like doing it at night. It is a good thing. It will be the same structure really as last year, we’re just going to do it on a weeknight, and see what kind of response we get.”
The practice is open to the public and admission is free.
Injury Update: Defensive linemen Brian Schaefering, Phil Taylor and Frostee Rucker; receiver Carlton Mitchell; tight end Ben Watson; safety Usama Young; Kicker Jeff Wolfert did not practice.
Linebacker Chris Gocong was carted of of the field midway through practice with a right ankle injury.
Up Next: There is no practice Sunday. Players return to the field Monday afternoon at 2 p.m.
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